India's I-Day Gallantry Award Winners & Why (Part 2)

The following Indian Navy personnel have been decorate with the Nao Sena Medal (Gallantry). 1. COMMANDER ARUN BAHUGUNA (Marine Commando, CO INS Kankarso) On 28 January 2011, INS Cankarso, under the command of Commander Arun Bahuguna, was on an antipiracy patrol off the Lakshadweep Islands was directed to intercept a pirate ‘mother-ship’ who has successfully intercepted the Thai-flagged pirated trawler, Prantalay-14. Pirates aboard the Prantalay-14 began firing upon the Cankarso. Despite the discernible hail of bullets Commander Bahuguna, remained on the Bridge of his ship providing very visible and hence inspirational leadership to his officers and men. Appreciating that the imminent onset of darkness Commander Bahuguna daringly closed the pirate vessel and engaged her with his ship’s Medium Machine Gun. Personally supervising, directing and controlling the warship’s firing, in the course of the engagement, some petrol-tanks stored on the forecastle of Prantalay-14 were hit, starting a fire that soon engulfed the trawler, causing pirates and crew alike to abandon the vessel by jumping into the water. Commander Bahuguna once again was an exemplar directing the humane and speedy recovery of personnel from the sea. Commander Arun Bahuguna displayed exceptional courage and initiative in the face of great danger and is awarded “Nao Sena Medal (Gallantry)”.

2. COMMANDER JOJI TOM MUNDAKEL (CO INS Suvarna) In a similar operation Cdr Joji Tom Mundackel successfully intercepted MV Mortaza on 26 Mar 11. His action led to capture of 16 pirates and rescue of 16 hostages onboard. On 23rd Mar 11 and 26th Mar 11 pirate attacks were reported on MSC Eva and MV Kensington respectively around 300-400 nm West of Lakshadweep Islands in the Arabian Sea. On receiving reports of the failed attacks, Indian Naval ships and aircraft already on anti-piracy deployment in the Lakshadweep islands were diverted to the area. The IN surveillance aircraft located Morteza with skiffs in tow and INS Suvarna arrived at the scene soon thereafter. INS Suvarna made repeated attempts to communicate with the mother ship Morteza in vain. Thereafter INS Suvarna warned the mother Morteza to stop, Morteza did not stop and instead tried to escape and fired at INS Suvarna. INS Suvarna returned limited fire. Personnel onboard Morteza were observed abandoning the ship and INS Suvarna rescued a total of 32 personnel. CGS Sangram, deployed for anti-piracy operations, was also involved in the operation.

3. COMMANDER S MUTHU KUMARAN (Marine Commando, Headquarters Southern Naval Command, Kochi) In another anti-piracy action Commander Muthukumaran leading a 12 member team of MARCOS rescued 14 crew members of MV Orinoco and sanitised the ship in the face of extensive hurdles and possible retaliation by pirates. At about 6 AM on 11 Nov, about 450 nautical miles West of Mumbai, a merchant ship MV BBC Orinoco with a crew of 14 (5 Ukraine and 9 Philippino) reported being attacked by pirates. The crew locked themselves in the ships Engine room and the Steering compartment and communicated with their agents, UK MTO Dubai, on e-mail. Dubai, in turn, intimated the Indian Navy for assistance. On receipt of this information, the Indian Navy promptly detached one of its Missile Corvettes, INS Veer, to intercept the distressed vessel and also sailed a capital ship INS Delhi with a team of Marine Commandos (MARCOS) embarked. One of the Navy’s Long Range Maritime Patrol Aircraft was extensively deployed for aerial surveillance. The Indian Coast Guard, too, responded with alacrity adjusting all routine deployments to keep one or more Dornier aircraft on hot standby, besides asking their ships on assigned mission to be also on stand-by. At daybreak, the naval forces, which had arrived at the scene, commenced their actions. MARCOS under the command of Commander Muthukumaran slithered onto the merchant ship from a Sea King helicopter and took the crew, who were locked in compartments, to safety, while the helicopter provided air borne fire support. MV BBC Orinoco is a General Cargo Carrier and is registered in Antigua and Barbuda.

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